US Health and Human Services targeted by DDoS scum at just the time it's needed to be up and running

Miscreants also hammer Euro websites as well, because why not?

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A doctor holding a coronavirus test

In an impeccable instance of horrible timing, the US government's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says it fended off a cyberattack by online scumbags.

The department told The Reg on Monday it was on the receiving end of what was believed to be a failed distributed denial of service (DDoS) assault the previous day.

The attack – presumably not a load of citizens hitting Uncle Sam's web servers looking for information – did not, we're told, have had any serious impact on operations, but with American's desperate for information about the coronavirus pandemic, the attempted takedown came at the worst possible time.

"HHS has an IT infrastructure with risk-based security controls continuously monitored in order to detect and address cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities," a spokesperson for the department told The Register.

"On Sunday, we became aware of a significant increase in activity on HHS cyber infrastructure and are fully operational as we actively investigate the matter."

The timing of these probings and forays is unwelcome: folks are turning to official sources for details on how to cope with the novel coronavirus. With states and cities across America taking unprecedented steps to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government officials are more than taxed with public awareness efforts.

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Fortunately, in this case it might have been the department's own planning that prevented an outage, as the extra headroom in capacity appears to have absorbed the assault.

"Early on while preparing and responding to COVID-19, HHS put extra protections in place," El Reg was told. "We are coordinating with federal law enforcement and remain vigilant and focused on ensuring the integrity of our IT infrastructure."

At the time of writing, the HHS website remained fully operational.

Sadly, it seems that the pattern of utter scum targeting health agencies is a global affair. Administrators in the hospital at University Hospital Brno in the Czech Republic report receiving similar cyberattacks.

"According to [the hospital director], some computer operations are limited, but examinations and acute operations work, but staff writes information on paper," local news reports.

"The medical facility canceled the planned operations and diverted some patients to nearby hospitals." ®

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